One of the common challenges faced by Finance is that no one cares about the numbers as much as they do.
A bi-product of the above challenge is that Finance-folk are often criticised for talking about the wrong data in the wrong way. Data destroys the conversation, eroding the business partner relationship that follows. In order to play a relevant part in the conversation, Finance needs to respond.
I read a great article called ‘The Power of Data for Meaningful Conversations’ and I nodded my head throughout. In fact, I was thinking ‘YES, YES, YES’!! Read it for yourself, but here are some of the key points:
Use data as a facilitation tool  to:
Discover commonalities to bring groups of people together
Leverage strengths by identifying, using data, where they lie
Break down biases by widening perspectives
Desensitise emotional topics focusing energy on solution vs blame
Make sure data is valid and authoritative. 
 this takes time, especially for those new to facilitation. We want a conversation, not a monologue. If the communication is all one-way, what really is the purpose of the meeting and can it be achieved in a different, more efficient way? A detailed agenda including allowing discussion time in your meeting is so often overlooked (are you trying to cram too much information into the one meeting?) but essential for success.
 What do you do when your data is unreliable? Many of us deal with what feels like highly customised legacy systems with acquired entity systems bolted on with the whole ecosystem held together with sticky tape. If you often worry that your numbers aren't right, strip it all back and remember:
use source information
reconcile to a validated or audited figure
apply materiality (if there is a reconciling difference)
Coming back to these basic principles is really helpful for those sharing financial data particularly during crunch times like budget period, year-ends, etc when emotions are heightened and a lot is at stake.
Using data effectively goes a long way to progressing the business partner conversation.
Do your stakeholders' eyes glaze over when you start talking?
However, it dawned on me that something was missing in the article. This being: you must have a story to tell. Without a relevant story, the numbers are useless.
Before you read on, know this. The story is not the numbers. It’s words. It’s insight. It’s describing the business' focus and how that translates into drivers of performance. It's understanding the tensions that exist between the industry, your customer base and what goes on internally that allows to you shift the conversation from information to insight. Only then can you describe how that is reflected in the numbers, and most importantly, the relevance (the ’so what’) of that information for now and in the future.
How to tell a relevant story supported by financial information?
Here are 10 questions to ask yourself:
In business partnering, the business wants insight and value. Not numbers. They want the story behind the numbers. The great thing about stories, is that people remember them.
Make your conversations count.
What conversations are you preparing for now?